Cautionary Chronicle#2:What you can learn from Camillus’ example V

Continuing my account of the ancient Roman genereal and statesman Marcus Furius Camillus, as related by Plutarch…. I know it has been long since the last post but then so much to do, so little time…..

And when the tribunes once more put forward the law for the division of the city and summoned the people to vote upon it, then Camillus, shunning no hatred nor any boldness of utterance, was manifestly the chief one in forcing the multitude away from its desires.

Therefore, they did indeed reject the law, much against their will, but they were wroth with Camillus, so that even when he met with domestic affliction and lost one of his two sons by sickness, their wrath was in no wise softened by pity. And yet he set no bounds to his sorrow, being by nature a gentle and kindly man, but even after the indictment against him had been published, he suffered his grief to keep him at home, in close seclusion with the women of his household.

Well, then, his accuser was Lucius Apuleius, and the charge was theft of Tuscan goods. It was said, forsooth, that certain bronze doors belonging to the booty had been seen at his house. But the people were exasperated, and would plainly lay hold of any pretext whatever for condemning him.  So then he assembled his friends and comrades in arms, who were many in number, and begged them not to suffer him to be convicted on base charges and to be made a laughing-stock by his foes. When his friends had laid their heads together and discussed the case, they answered that, as regarded his trial, they thought they could be of no help to him; but if he were punished with a fine, they would help him pay it. This he could not endure, and in his wrath determined to depart the city and go into exile. Accordingly, after he had kissed his wife and son good-bye, he went from his house in silence as far as the gate of the city. There he stopped, turned himself about, and stretching his hands out towards the Capitol, prayed the gods that, if with no justice, but through the wantonness of the people and the abuse of the envious he was now being driven from his country, the Romans might speedily repent, and show to all men that they needed and longed for Camillus.

After he had thus, like Achilles,  invoked curses upon his fellow citizens, he removed from out the city. His case went by default, and he was fined fifteen thousand asses.

This sum, reduced to our money, is fifteen hundred drachmas. For the as was the current copper coin, and the silver coin worth ten of these pieces was for that reason called the denarius, which is equivalent to the drachma.

Now there is no Roman who does not believe that justice followed hard upon the imprecations of Camillus, and that he received a requital for his wrongs which was not pleasing to him, but painful: certainly it was notable and famous. For a great retribution encompassed Rome, and a season of dire destruction and peril not unmixed with disgrace assailed the city, whether fortune so brought things to pass, or whether it is the mission of some god not to neglect virtue that goes unrequited.

In the first place, then, it seemed to be a sign of great evil impending when Julius the censor died. For the Romans specially revere and hold sacred the office of censor. In the second place, before Camillus went into exile, a man who was not conspicuous, to be sure, but who was esteemed honest and kindly, Marcus Caedicius, informed the military tribunes of a matter well worth their attention.  He said that during the night just passed, as he was going along the so‑called New Street, he was hailed by someone in clear tones, and turned, and saw no man, but heard a voice louder than man’s saying: “Hark thou! Marcus Caedicius, early in the morning go and tell the magistrates that within a little time they must expect the Gauls.” At this story the tribunes mocked and jested. And a little while after, Camillus suffered his disgrace.

To be continued…..


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